Herren's Message Resonates With Student-Athletes

By Franki Darnold
GoRhody.com Staff

– Not many 6-1 white Americans make it to the NBA, but Chris Herren defied the odds.

Then, through a series of poor choices, he threw it all away.

A native of Fall River, Mass., the guard spent his whole life dreaming of playing basketball for his hometown team, the Boston Celtics. Upon finally reaching this ultimate goal, a series of poor choices involving drug and alcohol abuse caused those dreams to slip right out of his hand.

URI student-athletes gathered in Edwards Hall Auditorium Tuesday night to listen to Herren’s moving story. From the start of his presentation, the silence of the crowd was deafening. For an hour, the audience sat in awe at the detailed description of every athlete’s nightmare.

Even without a microphone Herren was able to grab the attention of the room. He explained himself in a way that got through to many, because he shares a similar perspective – that of a Division I college athlete. Several times, Herren referred to the student-athletes as teammates, brothers, and sisters, recognizing that their dreams of success and fame probably matched his aspirations when he was attending Boston College, and then Fresno State University.

These aspects are likely what made his presentation so inspiring. Herren shared with the crowd the story of the first time he was offered drugs.

"That girl brought up insecurities that I didn’t even know I had," Herren said.

Thinking little of the transaction at the time, this moment altered the way the rest of his life would pan out.

Layne Self, a member of the women’s volleyball team said, "When Chris asked the crowd, 'Why aren't you comfortable being you?' it really hit home because I think that's something a lot of college kids struggle with."

Many in the room could relate to Herren's struggle, even if they did not have the exact same anxieties.

Tyler Catalina, a junior on the football team said, "I know from a first-hand perspective how easily drugs will tear a family apart."

Whether or not it is on a personal level, many people have to face the effects that addiction can bring to a family. Along with several other students, Catalina shared a sense of discontent with his peers as Herren's story laid heavy on the audience.

"I grew up around some substance abuse in my family, so Chris' presentation really sunk in," Catalina said.

Hearing the frustrating journey of an elite athlete who threw everything away as a result of his addiction set in on the crowd as they realized how easy it could be for them or someone they love to fall victim to substance abuse.

Now sober since August 1, 2008, Herren dedicates his work to his family and his sobriety. He travels around the country and gives presentations to groups like this, where the responses are often similar. Through his story, he has changed the lives of many people. The achievements of his current projects have made up for his unsuccessful basketball career, and he works daily to be a man that his children can look up to.